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RWP: Hawaii @ Wyoming: Three things to look for, Prediction

Hawaii’s regular season finale will occur at 7,220 feet

NCAA Football: Hawaii at Wyoming Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

HAWAII @ WYOMING

RWP = Rainbow Warrior Perspective

Location: Laramie, Wyoming (War Memorial Stadium)

Date/Time: Saturday, November 27th at 10:00 a.m. (Hawaii Time)

Television: Spectrum Sports PPV (for Hawaii residents only)

Streaming: Download the Team1Sports App.

Radio: ESPN Honolulu

Head-to-Head: Wyoming leads the series 15-10, with the Pokes winning the most recent contest 31-7 in Laramie last October. Hawaii has played Wyoming 10 times since 1993, only winning two of those games, both in Honolulu. Hawaii hasn’t beaten the Cowboys in Laramie since 1991. A weird twisted result of the pandemic: this weekend the Warriors will be playing in Laramie again, back-to-back seasons. Unusual for conference peers. The two programs play for the Paniolo Trophy.

Three things to look for:

1. Another elite defense?!

It’d be unfair to say Hawaii hasn’t met expectations this fall, finishing either 5-8 or 6-7 is precisely what the Vegas o/u’s projected. Still, some fans hoped this would be a breakout season. Why wasn’t 2021 a breakout campaign for Todd Graham and company? There are plenty of reasons, but a big one: the Mountain West has been really good this fall.

Another week arrives, and another opponent stacked with talent awaits. Wyoming’s defense is spearheaded by linebacker Chad Muma. He might be the best defensive player in the Mountain West. He is everywhere all at once, and fooled by nothing. He has 120 total tackles this fall, 75 solo tackles. He’ll be a star in the NFL.

Wyoming ranks 26th-nationally in total defense. They are suspectable against the run, ranking 90th in rushing defense, but rank a dominant 4th-nationally in passing yards allowed. Cornerbacks Azizi Hearn and C.J. Colden, and safeties Isaac White, Rome Weber, etc. make up a secondary that concedes nothing. Utah State’s Logan Bonner finished with 181 passing yards against Wyoming. Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener finished with 96 passing yards. Boise State’s Hank Bachmeier finished with 225 passing yards, 1 touchdown and no interceptions, and that was essentially the best performance any quarterback has had against Wyoming all season.

The point is clear: it’s unlikely that quarterback Chevan Cordeiro will feast through the Laramie air on Saturday. Running backs Dae Dae Hunter and Dedrick Parson need to bring their A-game Saturday if the Warriors want to upset the Cowboys.

2. Has Wyoming’s offense found life?

You’d be hard-pressed to find a college football team with a stranger offensive resume than the Wyoming Cowboys. The Pokes hired Tim Polasek from Iowa to be their new offensive coordinator. The much-maligned Brent Vigen had left for Montana State, and there was optimism this could be the breakout team for the Cowboys.

It started off poorly, only scoring 19 points against ironically Brent Vigen’s Montana State Bobcats. Have no fear, Wyoming retaliated by scoring 50 points on Northern Illinois and 43 on Ball State. The offense followed up those performances with two average, maybe even poor outings against UConn and Air Force.

Then disaster struck. Wyoming scored 3 points total across two home games. You read that correctly. Shutout by Fresno State, and held to only a field goal against New Mexico (!!!). It was arguably rock bottom for the Craig Bohl era.

Wyoming has since switched full-time to quarterback Levi Williams. He isn’t perfect, but he’s since stabilized the passing game. The Pokes performed decently against San Jose State, and ran all over Colorado State.

The Boise State game was a setback, but last week Wyoming dropped 604 total yards on Utah State. Out of nowhere! Wyoming rushed for 362 yards, running backs Titus Swen and Xazavian Valladay dominated the Aggies. Swen scored a 99-yard touchdown!

Do not forget wide receiver Isaiah Neyor, he’s quietly emerging as one of the best wide receivers in the conference.

Wyoming went through valleys few offenses will ever experience, but the peaks have been impressive of late. Hawaii’s defense will have their work cut out for them against a Pokes’ offense finding their identity in November.

3. Finish strong

There is potentially a weird possibility that Hawaii could be bowl eligible at 6-7. We’ve seen Hawaii’s bowl hopes comes back from the dead before.

Assuming no such shenanigans occur, this is probably Hawaii’s last football game until the 2022 opener against Vanderbilt. Hawaii bounced back last week to beat Colorado State on Senior Night, shockingly by the score of 50-45. As noted earlier, the 2021 Rainbow Warriors largely finish with a record around what most neutrals expected in the spring.

Still, with quarterback Chevan Cordeiro returning behind a veteran offensive line, and a much-improved defense on the opposite side of the ball, many UH fans thought this team had the potential to be a shock contender in the West Division. That didn’t happen.

Saturday’s game in Laramie is Hawaii’s bowl game. Hell, there is even a trophy at stake. Wyoming is a quality team, and a healthy favorite in this contest. If Hawaii can build off of the victory against Colorado State and at least push Wyoming into a competitive game, first through fourth quarter, it’d help conclude a disappointing season in positive fashion.

This is where the character of a football program is shown. How do the Warriors play when little is on the line? It’s just one game, but Hawaii playing hard until the end, in freezing weather 3,000+ miles away from home can help set the foundation for future seasons.

Prediction:

Raise your hand if you thought Hawaii and Colorado State would combine for 95 points this past Saturday.

You either kept your hand down, or you’re a liar.

Wyoming opened as an 8-point favorite in this game, and it moved to 10-points pretty quickly. Gamblers understandably are picking against the Warriors on the mainland.

Chevan Cordeiro is so frustrating. He was nothing short of spectacular against Colorado State. His inconsistencies, the highest of highs and lowest of lows remind me of Timmy Chang. If he could just channel those positive performances week-to-week, he’d be one of the best quarterbacks in college football.

This week, his goal needs to be protecting the football. Wyoming’s defense is dominant, but there is a weakness in their rushing defense. Exploit it. Control the clock, protect the football.

Hawaii football and the mainland haven’t mixed well historically, and that didn’t change this fall. I don’t expect it to change on Saturday. Prove me wrong, Warriors. Give me Hawaii 13, Wyoming 27.

Thank you to all my readers this season! 2021 was a rough calendar year for UH football, on and off the field.

Better days ahead. Mahalo.